Alongside our incredible conservation farming we have a number of innovative, creative projects that are income generating and give our students valuable skills to take forward in their futures.
Native African chickens are hard pushed to produce the sheer number of eggs of their European counterparts. This explains why a rural African may only enjoy one nutritious egg a year. We had an idea, and crossbred indigenous Ugandan chickens with higher-yielding Kienyeji types at Kira Farm. This means each chicken will produce a three-fold egg increase, and more eggs will be eaten instead of hatched. On graduation, trainees have the option to start a chicken microfinance scheme, where they can take some of these amazing chickens to breed from. This means they can start a viable egg, meat and chicken-trading business in their village, and all the while be more nourished and educated. We also have a solar incubator, so the trainees can learn husbandry techniques and even have the opportunity to take a machine home as part of microfinance.
Meet some of our glorious breeding herd of Saanen/Toggenburg dairy goats. Great for milk production, these goats provide our students with a nutritious, and importantly cheaper, alternative to cow's milk. Goats' milk is the most widely-drunk milk in the world, yet possibly the most misunderstood. The milk helps alleviate symptoms associated with stomach ulcers, eczema, respiratory problems and is great for all-round nutrition. On the Farm, we are working to break the cultural stigma that makes Uganda turn away from drinking this hearty milk. The hope is on returning to their villages, graduates educate their local communities on the virtues of this milk. We also support microfinance packages that create business opportunities and increase quality of life.
We are always trying to think of innovative fundraising ideas and this one ticks a number of boxes. We teach the art of tailoring on Kira, and amongst the many skills that students learn is making graduation gowns. We have secured a deal with Petroc College, who will be using these special Ugandan-made Amigos graduation gowns for their UK ceremonies. Each time Petroc use the gowns, a donation is made enabling funds to be directed back to Kira Farm supporting more training. The label inside each gown reads ‘fulfilling our potential, tailoring our future’ along with the name of one of our students.
Alongside 90% of rural Uganda, Kira is faced with an unreliable and erratic supply of electricity. Reliance on lamps using kerosene and diesel results in important health and environmental implications, and only generates average to poor lighting. Financially, such fuels are a great source of expense for Ugandans and it is a major contributor to home fires
Solar lighting provides exceptional benefits. Being situated firmly on the equator, Kira students and the wider community are forced to stop work at the 7pm sunset every evening. Artificial light can be non-existent, so learning and businesses grind to a halt or out come the kerosene candels. With solar light, which is both affordable and safe, children are exposed to more productive evenings. With longer time available to complete homework and further study, students ultimately progress quicker. What’s more, numerous communities will have access to solar technology through our Kira graduates’ microfinance businesses.
Many women have a few moans and groans throughout menstruation (quite rightly!) but unfortunately Ugandan ladies suffer far more. We purchase sanitary wear without a second thought for the consequence on our shopping bill, and are fortunate to give even less concern to our health and hygiene. The situation in Uganda is far more dismal. Sanitary pads in Uganda are costly; a pack costing 4,000 UGS (£1). This equates to a whole days’ wage.
Ultimately, girls are forced to opt for a more traditional method. Methods include bark-cloth (a rough plant fibre), toilet paper to old newspapers. All three are unhygienic and expose girls to regular infections, as well as causing odour and discomfort. Above all, they leak and deter many girls from attending school. Many girls will be absent for a whole week of every month, which often sees them falling behind and potentially failing at school.
To mitigate this problem, Kira’s Department of Tailoring has introduced re-usable sanitary pads that are washable and have a lifespan of three years. Equally as important, they are hygienic, comfortable and made from recycled materials. They are currently being made on the Farm by the students, and can be constructed by hand or machine. These re-usable pads will enable theA girls to go through their entire course without any interruptions, and absenteeism from schools will be minimised or completely eliminated. It even alleviates the concern may girls have of ‘being laughed at by the boys’.
Aside from the practical benefits, financially it relieves pressure and allows households to purchase other essential commodities. The fact that they can be made by hand means that their production is not limited to those families wealthy enough to own a sewing machine. On Kira, we expect to save £300 annually from students’ own supplies. The students are inspired by the potential this concept has for an innovative business, with many planning a small enterprise scheme involving the production and selling of sanitary pads once they have graduated.
In a sobering prediction, Uganda is expected to have no trees by 2050. The rate of deforestation is accelerating, directly linked to the growing needs of the ever-expanding population. Each year the walk for wood gets further and further as the surrounding village trees are chopped down for fire wood. The common statement we hear is an ‘African only has one meal a day’. Interestingly, this might not be due to lack of food, but lack of cooking fuel. 70% of wood in Africa is used for cooking or brick making.
At Kira we are developing and educating students about energy-efficient stoves that use far less wood than the traditional ‘three stone’ fire. The outdated methods allow an unacceptable amount of heat escape, decreasing their efficiency and ultimately requiring more precious wood. The health effects of wood smoke in the developing world are well-documented, with women being particularly vulnerable to these adverse effects. Equipped with the practical skills and knowledge, graduates of Kira can take expertise to their villages and improve quality of life.
Tippy Taps are a clever, innovative and overwhelmingly basic technology that raises hygiene levels all across Africa. The container is tipped to drain water like a tap.
The technology works to improve hygiene by eliminating the need to touch the opening of the container, which controls the spread of bacteria and other nasty bugs. Statistics suggest that one of the leading causes of poor health in Africa is poor sanitary facilities. Users will press on a foot lever, which is attached to the container via a piece of string. This tilts the container, releasing a steady flow of water which can be used to wash hands. Soap can be even be suspended on string next to the tippy tap. Simple and infinitely effective.
Students at Kira are trained in the building of tippy taps and will get accustomed to using them, developing the essential habit of washing hands. Outside of Kira we have supported the building of tippy taps in the northern region of Uganda, where a number of our students come from.
Often when we hear the words “herbal medicine” people automatically think of old-wives tales, but life in rural Africa not only challenges these assumptions, but gives the opportunity to learn a great deal about plant-based medicinal treatments. When you look a little deeper you find that many pharmaceutical companies are doing their own research into traditional medicines, and remarkably many of the treatments we have today are based on active ingredients first found in plants.
In Uganda there is around one doctor for every 20,000 people (2003 figures). Consequently many people live so far from a clinic that it is not practical for them to go unless they are extremely ill. Western treatments are often far too expensive and therefore inaccessible for the majority of the population, so a traditional alternative is the best bet. There seems to be a great depth of knowledge, especially in rural areas, about how local plants can be used as medicine. For example, around three different plants growing wild on the farm are used to treat the symptoms of Malaria. Blackjack, a common weed, is used to speed the healing of cuts. Bombo, a vine with orange fruits, is mixed with ash and taken for coughs. It seems that almost every plant has some beneficial qualities.Many of the students on Kira Farm come from isolated rural areas, where medicine is either unaffordable or unavailable. So promoting well-known, verified forms of herbal medicine is a valuable way that students can be empowered to manage health and well-being in communities. Anyone can grow these plants, and use them as prevention and treatment for a number of common ailments.
On Kira Farm we grow Artemisia (Artemisia annua), which has been used by the Chinese for thousands of years in the treatment of Malaria and various other illnesses. The many (over 30) active compounds in the plant make it incredibly bitter, but dried and drunk as a tea, it treats malaria incredibly effectively. Many of the students who have come down with Malaria have opted to be treated with Artemisia rather than going to the clinic for treatment. They arrive dutifully for their four cups a day of bitter green tea, and some have even said they feel an improvement within hours of drinking it. There are now more than 140 Artemisia plants on the farm, and the hope is to harvest and dry the leaves to sell them.
The students were taught in W.A.S.H (Water And Sanitation Health) classes how to prevent the spread of diarrhoea, and how to treat intestinal worms using the seeds of the Paw-Paw – a common fruit that the students love to eat. Another plant grown on the farm is Roselle, (Hibiscus sabdariffa), which makes a popular deep-red, tangy tea. This can be used by the household as a healthy drink, or aptly the flowers can be dried and sold to generate essential income. This tea has been shown to reduce blood pressure and hypertension and is a great source of Vitamin C. Dark-green Comfrey leaves are used to feed chickens and goats. If ingested, it is toxic to humans, but has been used for centuries as an external way to treat strains and sprains. Highlighting the importance of education, after using it personally a Kira student showed another injured student how to crush the leaves and hold them onto the area with a bandage. The Farm also grows small aloe vera plants to treat small cuts, minor burns and other skin problems.Amigos is working to bring self-sustainability, dignity and hope to the young people in Uganda through investing in vocational training, educational opportunities and holistic life-skills.
Amigos is working to bring self-sustainability, dignity and hope to the young people in Uganda through investing in vocational training, educational opportunities and holistic life-skills.